Chapter 7 of Greg Boyd’s book is entitled When Chief Sinners Become Moral Guardians. In this chapter, Boyd discusses the problems that arise when Christians try to act as “moral guardians” of our culture.
I think it would have been helpful for Boyd to better define what he means by “moral guardians.” However, I take him to mean that Christians become moral guardians when they try to force people to behave in certain ways (i.e., by lobbying for and enacting laws) because they think they know better how society ought to “behave.”
Clearly in view here are the issues of abortion and gay marriage. I don’t think Boyd opposes enactment of laws on which there is a broad, pluralistic social consensus. For example, he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with Christians supporting laws prohibiting things such as murder, securities fraud, or practicing medicine without a license. Instead, he is focused on issues where there is clearly no broad cultural agreement that something is immoral, and where Christians nevertheless insist that something be “outlawed.”
Boyd systematically outlines the problems with taking on the role of “moral guardian”:
1.It is not the example of Jesus. He never assumed the position of moral guardian over anyone. He never “forced” anyone to act a certain way. At best, he loved those who were sinful and encouraged them to stop sinning.
2. When Christians assume this position, they also position themselves as the judges of others, in violation of Jesus’ command in Luke 6:37.
3. Acting as moral guardians gives Christians a reputation as self-righteous judges rahter than loving, self-sacrificial servants. (Here, he points out that there is lots of talk about how Christians still love sinners, even as they act as moral guardians, but that such talk is best compared to an abusive husband/father who says he loves his family).
4. Christians become hypocrits. They select one or two pet issues and try to “push” them on others, while ignoring all of their own problems – such as divorce, greed, gossip, and gluttony.
5. Historically, Christians have consistently been incompetent as moral guardians. Why do modern Christians think they can do better?
As an example of the pointless, arbitrary nature of the critiques that come from moral guardian/Christians, Boyd makes reference to Janet Jackson’s breast. As you probably recall, said breast was available for public viewing during the 2004 Super Bowl. He points out that, a few days before the Super Bowl, a TV special aired on child prostitution in Cambodia and Thailand. Why were Christians so outraged about Janet Jackson’s breast, yet completely ambivalent about 30,000 children living who are living in sexual slavery?
Boyd suggests that, if you’re really concerned about homosexuality, you should form friendships with gay people and earn the right to speak into their lives by loving them and caring for them. Likewise, if you are concerned about abortion, then you should take a pregnant teenager into your house and help her raise her baby.
But…if all your are going to do is grench and complain about how wrong it all is and make things as difficult as possible for people who are in these situations, then you need to shut up. (He actually doesn’t put it quite that bluntly, but thats the gist of it).
He concludes: “The distinct kingdom question is not, How do you vote? The distinct kingdom question is, How do you bleed?”
–Chapter One: The Kingdom of the Sword
–Chapter Two: The Kingdom of the Cross
–Chapter Three: Keeping the Kingdom Holy
–Chapter Four: From Resident Aliens to Conquering Warlords
–Chapter Five: Taking America Back for God
–Chapter Six: The Myth of a Christian Nation